The Write to Roam TV: Episode 3

This has been a fun little experiment, and I’m happy to present the third and (for now) final episode of my little cooking-show-slash-small-biz-advice session. In this bit I talk about the power of books, dealing with haters, and the oh-so-important question of whom you need to become in order to have what you want.

Here are links to the resources I mentioned:

This isn’t goodbye forever. I’ve enjoyed this format, and think we may be stumbling towards something cool. I’ve got a couple of changes I want to make to the overall focus, timing, and quality, but look forward to version 2.0

In the meantime, if you got any value out of this, have questions or feedback, or just want to say hey, reach out and find me on twitter @EthanDBrooks.

The Write to Roam TV: Episode 2

For those of you who may have just stumbled across this, this is an experiment I’m doing where — in order to get away from my desk for a little while each day — I drop on down to the kitchen, cook a tasty meal, and discuss facets of travel, entrepreneurship, and small business that are on my mind from the day. In this episode, I whip up a quick favorite from Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Chef .

Here is a link to episode 1 are links to any of the resources I talked about: Continue reading “The Write to Roam TV: Episode 2”

The Write to Roam TV: Episode 1

No, it’s definitely not a real TV show. Just a good excuse for me to get away from my desk once a day or so, get down to the kitchen, and cook a good meal. One part Random Show, one part Wine About It, with a little Ask Gary Vee mixed in, this is me standing in front of the camera cooking, and talking about some of the more interesting ideas, articles, and resources I’ve come across throughout the day.

Links to everything can be found below. Some are affiliate Amazon links, which definitely help to keep this ship afloat. If you’re thinking of buying any of the books I mention (and I won’t mention them unless I’d truly recommend them) it’d mean a lot if you’d do it by clicking the links here. Continue reading “The Write to Roam TV: Episode 1”

Build a School for the Price of Your Daily Coffee: ChangeHeroes

 

“That’s the most fucked up question I’ve ever been asked,” said the disembodied voice echoing to my headphones through the Skype-o-sphere from the other side of the continent. I was nineteen minutes, and a half dozen technical difficulties into my interview with Taylor Conroy, and things were going great.

Conroy is the founder of Change Heroes, and is among a growing group of innovative disruptors. Business owners known as Social Entrepreneurs who see potential for companies to be economic engines that drive positive social change.

Change Heroes is a friend-funding platform which gives anyone the tools they need to raise $10,000 and build a school, library, or water well somewhere in the developing world. The system leverages technology and small meaningful numbers to create huge tangible impact in very little time. For example, a typical campaign is designed around one person getting 33 of their friends to donate $3.33 a day for three months. By the end of their campaign, and for no more than the price of a daily cup of coffee, those friends will have raised enough money to build a school and change more than a thousand lives for decades to come.

Put another way, if they were to begin in say, September, they’d have funded an entire school before the end of the fall semester, giving dozens of deserving kids the right to an education and each for less than they’re likely to spend on a textbook or two. They’d also be part of one of the world’s largest education pushes in recent years. A project Change Heroes is calling their Back to School Build a School Campaign.

“Even though you and I are in the part of the world where we’re starting to think about going back to school, 130 million children aren’t. We want to change that so we’re starting with a goal of funding 100 schools in Kenya in September.”

This may seem like an extreme goal, but it’s a perfect example of what sets socially concerned businesses apart from their traditional for-profit and non-profit relatives. Change Heroes is a for-profit business keeping 10% of all funds that roll in through their platform. Because their revenue is wholly dependent on the success of their social mission, the only way they can survive as a company is by funding lots and lots of schools for other people.

“Like if they [for-profits and non-profits] spawned a freakishly good looking child that’s what Change Heroes would be.” Conroy said. The impact of this month long campaign would reach well over a hundred thousand students all over Kenya, and put one hundred schools on the ground in a country smaller than the state of Nevada.

Preposterous, you say? Don’t be so sure. Change Heroes has already raised over $600,000, funding more than 60 schools in just their first round of testing. In less than two years they’ve been able to work out the kinks of the program, and are scaling quickly.

“The site’s now ready to go live,” Conroy said, “If we had ten thousand people log onto the site today, and start campaigns, it would be able to handle it.”

As for the aforementioned “fucked up question”: Will it be able to continue handling it? Is there any legitimacy to the claim that social entrepreneurship is just a fad? Can it possibly be as sustainable as the capitalism we’ve seen until now?

“It’s ridiculous that someone would say [social entrepreneurship] isn’t sustainable even though we’re living in a world that has proven to be unsustainable. Our food supply is not sustainable. Our climate is not sustainable. Our health is not sustainable, it’s deteriorating at a ridiculously fast rate – that’s the definition of unsustainable. It needs massive change, and the thing is whenever massive change happens it’s met with massive opposition. The people that think that it’s unsustainable, or think it’s a fad are people that are grasping onto the old way of doing things.
There’s always tons of ‘em. You can call them leggers, you can call them late adopters, or you can call them people that just have it dead wrong.”

For more on Change Heroes, and to start up your campaign check out their website at http://www.changeheroes.com/

This article originally ran on MISSION.tv. You can find it, and a ton of other cool articles on social do-gooders here

Flip Flops That Are Ending Wars

Every startups got its low points. Sometimes it can feel like getting trampled by a raging bull. But when those low points hit me, I like to pause, and think of the experience of Matt Griffin, general badass and founder of Combat Flip Flops.

That’s Matt in the picture, the guy trying to hang his flip flops on the horns of the bull. It was taken just a few days before we connected via skype from halfway around the world. But in order to understand what he’s doing there, you must first understand what he’s doing in general.

After beginning his career as a US Army Ranger and serving three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq Griffin – Griff for short – was “invited back” to Afghanistan in a private sector consulting position. It was there, while on a tour of a factory that he saw a flip flop made from the sole of a combat boot. It was an ugly little thing, likely made as a joke, but in that instant an idea was born. The concept was to create a footwear brand that expressed the unique culture of Afghanistan, and was produced within their borders, helping to stabilize the job industry and provide economic opportunity as the allies drew down their military presence.

The idea seemed solid enough, but the team was battling a clock. Their first production round of 2,000 pairs was a flop (no pun intended), and with troop drawdowns increasing and the demand for military equipment plummiting, factories were closing their doors left and right. Just as he was closing the door on a shipping container full of materials for 3,000 pairs of flip flops, he got a call saying that his factory needed him to commit to 80,000 pairs in the next year, or they too would have to close. With 2,000 pairs down the drain, and more than 3,000 pairs worth of materials without a home, Griff did the only thing he could do: He shipped the container to his house.

“We had no idea how to make flip flops,” he said “So we did what anybody would do, we googled it.” After selling one of his cars, and some of his toys, they raided an old manufacturing plant and secured the low tech machinery needed to turn his 600 sq ft garage into a flip flop factory. “It took a few weeks of 5 am to midnight” he said, but they got the shipment done, and Combat Flip Flops was on the chart.

The experience of crafting  thousands of pairs of flip flops in a garage gave rise to the company’s next big idea. Something they call their Expeditionary Production Facility, a full on flip flop factory which fits in a single shipping container, and can be dropped anywhere in the world. CFF plans to ship these EPFs to some of the most conflict ridden places on earth – Columbia, Afghanistan, Parts of East Africa – and provide what is essentially a turnkey solution for jobs, and income. Working with a group of marketers, supply line specialists, and craftsmen CFF is poised to change the way we pick up the pieces of violent conflict.

Their motto really says it all – “Bad for running, worse for fighting”. A tongue in cheek reference to the power of responsible industry to stabilize conflict zones. It’s a slogan that Griff has taken upon himself time and time again to prove, running first from attack dogs, and most recently with the bulls in Pamplona.

If you dig what they’re doing, agree with the idea of driving economic development in conflict zones, or simply want to learn more check out their indiegogo campaign here.

This article first appeared on MISSION.tv. You can find it and lots of other cool stuff here

Dale Partridge and His Ridiculously Productive T-Shirt Co

It’s natural for people – upon hearing that a company donates a portion of its revenues to charity – to question exactly what the impact of such a strategy is. To wonder how much is being raised, and whether or not their purchase is really going to make a difference. Well, there’s one company that answers this question straight out with donation totals displayed right at the top of the page, and it’s awesome.

“We typically won’t do less than $15,000,” said Dale Partridge, CEO of online cause marketplace Sevenly, “…Ever, really.” That number – 15,000 – isn’t raised yearly or even monthly, but weekly and it’s often much higher than that.

The idea is simple, but has proven overwhelmingly effective: Each week Sevenly partners with a new non-profit and $7 from every sale goes toward supporting it.

“We weren’t called to the field,” Partridge said, explaining how the idea came to be, “But we felt really called to the people called to the field.” After starting five other companies and searching for a more fulfilling experience than profit alone, Partridge began thinking of ways to blend value and meaning. He did some research and was surprised to find that there were thousands of charities out there, all doing great work but struggling nonetheless. “Dozens of these guys are closing their doors every day,” he said, “and it’s not for lack of passion.” It was funding. Funding, and attention. Sevenly became a means of funneling those two life giving resources to the people who could make the most out of them.

They do this by selling custom shirt designs for every cause, hand drawn in house and produced right here in the U.S. under the strictest sustainability guidelines. Shoppers also have a chance to multiply their social impact by buying any of more than 250 other products from various socially beneficial brands. Just three years ago Sevenly existed as nothing more than an idea. But already they’ve backed dozens of causes. From the humane treatment of animals to the end of human trafficking Sevely’s supported it all. A weeklong campaign for 4 Paws for Ability raised $31,434 to support the placement of service dogs with disabled children. A campaign for Autism Speaks raised seven times that. All told more than a hundred campaigns have been run so far and nearly three million dollars donated.

It hasn’t been easy.

“Logistically it’s crazy,” Partridge said, “non-stop work.” New designs must be drawn up every week, along with pictures taken, ads created, and campaigns tracked. Products are ordered 24/7, and the whole thing starts anew every single Monday. At one point Partridge worked more than two hundred days straight. “Now,” he said, “we get weekends off, sometimes.” All the work isn’t without it’s benefit though. Theres the obvious reward of supporting so many good causes, but it also provides a formidable competitive advantage.

“We never worried much about competition because we doubt anyone else has the stamina we do.”

As the company grows they’ve begun putting systems in place to ease the workload. In the coming years Sevenly aims to be the world’s largest online cause-marketplace. A mix between Fab and Kickstarter. A place where you can get the things you want from the brands you love, and support a great cause while doing it. Check ‘em out here to find out more.

This article originally appeared on MISSION.tv. You can find it and lots of other cool stuff here

Editing Your Life with Graham Hill

GRAHAM_HILL_Reid_Rolls_Headshot

Graham Hill speaks in the slow, confident tone of someone who works too hard to be enamored by their own success. He doesn’t say much. But when he does talk, he mentions amazing feats, like his time on the Plastiki – a catamaran made from recycled water bottles which sailed across the Pacific – with such passing simplicity that you might think he was merely recounting an interesting article he’d glanced over, rather than a once in a lifetime adventure he’d undertaken. He is, in short, a very nice guy who does very cool stuff. His newest project, LifeEdited, is no different.

“So the basic concept behind LifeEdited,” he said, Continue reading “Editing Your Life with Graham Hill”